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Plants & fungi

Kew discovers new nettle species in caves

Nettles belonging to the genus Elatostema growing in Yangzi cave, China (Image: A. Monro)
Wed, 2013-06-26 17:20

Southwestern China, Myanmar and northern Vietnam contain one of the oldest exposed outcrops of limestone in the world. Within this area are thousands of caves and gorges. Wei Yi-Gang (Chinese Academy of Sciences, Guangxi Institute of Botany) and Alex Monro (Kew) have been exploring these caves and gorges for plants from the nettle family (Urticaceae).

Elderflower surprise

Sambucus nigra inflorescence
Mon, 2013-06-10 14:03

While assessing the authenticity and quality of traded plant extracts during a project on ‘Quality botanical extracts for skin and health products’, funded by EPSRC and Procter & Gamble, Kew scientists were surprised to detect major chemical constituents in a commercial extract of elderflower (inflorescences of Sambucus nigra) that had not been reported in the scientific literature.

Speciation systems on Lord Howe Island

Howea belmoreana and H. forsteriana have evolved into separate species while growing together on Lord Howe Island (Image: W. Baker)
Thu, 2013-06-06 12:56

On Lord Howe Island, previous research has shown that in several distantly related plant genera speciation has taken place without any geographic isolation of populations (Papadopulos et al., 2011).

What are hard seeds for?

Hamster digging for seed in gravel
Tue, 2013-05-14 13:53

Hard seeds are prevented from germinating by a water-impermeable seed coat, and for many years this has been considered to be a dormancy mechanism. Scientists from Kew, the University of Bergen and the University of Sheffield have proposed an alternative ‘crypsis hypothesis’: that hard seeds evolved to hide from mammalian predators.